Document Type



52 BUFF. L. REV. 659 (2004).


This essay presents a thought experiment: What if care work (child care, elder care, etc.) were socialized and police and fire protection left to individuals and families? What if men had to take time off to put out fires and combat villains, while women were freed of many of the care work responsibilities they have traditionally shouldered? The essay provides a mythical account of what such a world might look like, with the device of role-reversal operating to reveal the imagined impact that unpaid work responsibilities might have on men and by inference the very real impact that caring responsibilities already have on women (and many men as well). The principal point is to explore the structural/social as opposed to individual/volitional dimension of current practices with regard to the provision of care work, and thus to render those practices more vulnerable to re-examination and political critique. In particular, it highlights the substantial economic subsidy currently provided by unpaid care work and the hidden distributional consequences of seemingly natural institutional practices and arrangements.

Date of Authorship for this Version

June 2004


child care, elder care, police, fire, women, men, care work